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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I025782/1
Title: Mitigating the risk of micropollutants in the environment
Principal Investigator: Davenport, Dr RJ
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AstraZeneca Northumbrian Water Group plc UK Water Industry Research Ltd (UKWIR)
Department: Civil Engineering and Geosciences
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2011 Ends: 31 January 2017 Value (£): 1,114,424
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Assess/Remediate Contamination
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Oct 2010 Challenging Engineering PES 2010 Deferred
13 Dec 2010 Challenging Engineering PES Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The vision of this research is to achieve a chemical safe world where the benefits of modern products and processes can be enjoyed by all without undue detriment to the planetary ecosystem on which all life depends. It aims to improve our understanding and prediction of a key uncertainty (i.e. microbial biotransformation) that underpins ways in which society can reduce the risks posed by potentially hazardous chemicals to environmental and human health. Such chemicals are manufactured and present in many everyday products that benefit the health and well-being of consumers world-wide, and the economic prosperity and productivity of societies, examples include: personal care, domestic and hygiene products; pesticides; pharmaceuticals; and plastics. Environmental and human exposure to these chemicals can occur throughout the life cycle of a product; from its manufacture, distribution and use, to exposure after disposal and breakdown of the product. There has been widespread concern about the pervasive use of chemicals and their potential dangerous side-effects on wildlife and humans ever since Rachel Carson's landmark book in 1962 about the environmental hazards of the pesticide DDT. For instance, the 'feminising' effects on fish populations caused by low concentrations of natural and synthetic estrogens (e.g. in the contraceptive pill) and their chemical mimics (so-called micropollutants) is well publicised. It is widely suspected, though not proven, that many micropollutants are linked to cancers, reproductive and developmental diseases in humans. In fact there has been a relative rise in the incidence of such chronic diseases in the last two decades, making them surpass infectious diseases as the biggest global killer. These facts together with other case studies of environmental, occupational and consumer hazards, have led the European Union to enact the precautionary principle in a number of comprehensive legislative directives including chemical regulation and management of the water environment to protect the environment and human health. Analysis has shown that the benefit of such measures far out way their costs.The ways in which we can reduce risks to these chemicals are: i) by identifying hazardous chemicals and restricting their manufacture, distribution and use more effectively - so called chemical regulationii) by improving engineered technologies to remove hazardous chemical pollutants when they are released into the environment e.g. wastewater treatment worksiii) designing chemicals that have no hazardous properties - so called green chemicals . Microbial biotransformations, such as biodegradation by bacteria, play a direct and key role in each of these risk reduction strategies. In chemical regulation (i above), biodegradation is one of the most important factors in determining the extent and likelihood that a given chemical will persist in the environment (air, water, soil and sediment) and therefore the likely concentration to which wildlife and humans will be exposed. Known hazardous (toxic) chemicals tend to persist longer than non-hazardous ones. Biodegradation is also a central process in which many engineered technologies remove chemical pollutants (ii above). We also need to evaluate biodegradation in order to understand what chemical structures are resistant to biodegradation, and thereby avoid their use in the design of new products (iii above). This research has two objectives towards providing greater certainty and improvements in risk mitigation strategies:1. To build a world class team to tackle this challenging issue.2. To discover the fundamental rules that govern micropollutant biotransformation through case studies.The research will benefit policy-makers, governmental regulatory agencies, the chemical and water industries, and eventually the whole of society as this scientific understanding improves ways in which chemical risks are managed.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk